Jesus asked his disciples a question. ‘Who do you say I am?’. In fact this is the central question which all people are called to answer for themselves. What do we say about Jesus Christ?
Jesus certainly existed. There were tens and even hundreds of thousands of people in the Roman province of Judaea who had seen and heard him for themselves. And after the resurrection he showed himself to hundreds of his followers who shared their eye-witness testimony. The Gospels of St Matthew, Mark, Luke and John have been shown by scholars to be carefully written accounts of the life of Jesus, based closely on the vivid recollections of his Apostles, and the other people whose lives he touched. The Gospels are not accounts written many years after the events by people who did not know Jesus for themselves, but are eyewitness testimony that can be trusted.
These early followers of Jesus Christ were so convinced by his life that they were willing to suffer torture and death rather than abandon their faith in him. This would have been impossible if they had simply made up everything they wrote about him. It might be possible to imagine a great con-trick being played if the Apostles stood to make money out of their message about Jesus, but in fact all but one ended up being killed, all suffered imprisonment and hardships. Humanly speaking they lost everything. It doesn’t make any sense that they would stick by their stories about Jesus if they were made up.
This perseverance even to death makes it clear that the Apostles and other followers of Jesus certainly believed he was special, and that they believed that what they had written about him was true. But this forces us to ask the question once more – what do we think about Jesus?
If the accounts of the life of Jesus found in the Gospels represents what the Apostles understood and believed and saw happen then it seems to only leave three options when we speak about Jesus. Either he was a crook, or he was mad, or he was who he said he was. Let’s look at each of these options in turn.
It is possible that even if the Apostles were good, honest men it was Jesus who deceived everyone and was a charlatan. Perhaps when he turned the water into wine he used some cheap trick – but the guests thought it was the best wine they had ever tasted. Perhaps when he raised Lazarus from the dead he had simply fainted – but he had been in a sealed tomb for three days and would surely have suffocated to death. Can we really believe that people in the time of Christ didn’t know when someone had died? Were they constantly in the habit of burying people alive? Maybe when the bread and fish were multiplied and everyone had something to eat it was simply that everyone pulled out their packed lunches – but why would that impress the Apostles so much that they all wrote about it? Yes, it is possible to go through every single one of the miracles and find a ‘reasonable’ explanation for it which shows that Jesus was a clever manipulator of people. But it doesn’t answer the objection which was raised in regard to the Apostles. Why would Jesus allow himself to be taken and tortured, then executed by the most painful death possible, if he was simply a con-man? It doesn’t make sense, it isn’t a reasonable explanation.
But perhaps Jesus Christ was a mad-man? Perhaps he had convinced himself that he was someone special, and had managed to convince his disciples too. This doesn’t stand up to investigation either. When people met Jesus they clearly felt that they were in the presence of someone special, not someone who was crazy. He spent some time talking to a woman at a well and she ran back to her villager, urging everyone to ‘come and see a man who told me everything I ever did’. Jesus healed people without even seeing them, a Roman soldier asked him to heal his servant, and when Jesus told him that his servant was healed he ran back home and found that the man he had left dying had recovered exactly at the time when Jesus had said that he was healed. A mad man would not be able to pray over the body of a widow’s only son and raise him from the coffin in which he was being carried to the cemetery. Could a mad man teach the people in such a transforming way, with words which still resonate around the world. What other mad man has ever had such power? The madness of an Adolf Hitler or a Stalin is displayed in their complete cruelty and self-centredness, but none of this was seen in Jesus Christ. He was not paranoid, he shows no signs of delusion. On the contrary he appears always completely balanced. His words and his miraculous actions are not those of a mad-man.
Could he truly be a prophet of God then, as Islam teaches? Not at all. He never claimed to a prophet, he claimed to be the Son of God, saying, ‘I and the Father are one’, and when the demons were cast out of many oppressed souls they cried out, ‘Jesus, Son of God’. When the disciples were in a boat and were saved by Jesus from the storm they knelt before him, saying ‘Truly you are the Son of God’. When he was crucified by the Jewish leaders they insisted that it was ‘because he said he was the Son of God’. Jesus himself asked his disciples who they thought he was, and Peter answered, ‘You are Christ, the Son of the living God’, and Jesus did not correct him, he did not say, ‘No, I am just a prophet’, rather he commended him and said, ‘My Father in heaven has revealed this to you’.
What are we to make of Jesus? He certainly existed and changed the lives of his followers so that they were willing to give up everything for him. Their eye-witness testimony is found in the Gospels, and these accounts show us a Jesus Christ who is neither a bad man, nor a mad-man. We can reject him, but he claimed to be the Son of God. His disciples took this message to the ends of the world, and Christians continue to share their experience of a Jesus Christ who is not dead, but who is the Son of God and who lives forever and offers a life-changing and transforming relationship with God. This relationship has changed our lives, and we invite you to investigate the claims of Jesus Christ further so that he might touch and transform your life as well.
Article source: http://www.orthodoxmedway.org/whoisjesuschrist.php